Monday, September 22, 2014

Don't Fear The Student Loan

You're ready to launch into college, springboard into a career and vault into a happy, successful life. There's just one obstacle standing in your way: money. Yes, you've come to terms with the fact that you need a student loan. You may be a little anxious about it, or you may be downright petrified. But with a little planning and know-how, you don't have to fear the student loan. Here's what you can do to prep for your loan and take the anxiety out of the process.

Prepare your budget.
Your adult life will include many components (and costs). Take a sheet of paper and list them all out. What's the average starting salary for your career choice? What car will you be driving? Where do you plan to live? What about other expenses (groceries, shoe-shopping, utilities, etc.)? Average those in also. Now, consider your proposed starting salary minus your costs. Whatever is left over is the amount you can realistically afford to pay monthly for your student loan.

Figure out your interest rate (with a little help).
Terrifying and confusing, nothing quite intimidates like interest. Fortunately, there's a wealth of tools at your disposal, both online and in person, to demystify it. Here's where you can go for help in translating your interest rate into dollars and "sense":

Financial aid websites: You'll find a host of sources online to help you unravel the mystery of your loan interest. Government-hosted websites, such as , offer reference material for a wide variety of student loans and the variance in interest rates you can expect for each.
direct.ed.gov

Loan interest calculators: Determining your payments for the duration of the loan is a must. At direct.ed.gov, you'll find online loan calculators to help you determine your payments for a wide variety of student loans and repayment plans. Simply plug in your loan amount, your interest rate and a few other relevant figures, and the calculator will determine what you can expect to pay throughout the life of your loan.

Talk to a professional: There are plenty of flesh-and-blood resources to turn to for help with deciphering your student loan interest rate. Talk to your lender at length. He's there to answer questions and clarify your loan's fine print. Your school financial counselor is another excellent source of loan interest information.

Plan for the end.
You've plugged all the details into your loan calculator. You know how much you'll pay monthly and how many years it will take to pay off the loan. You need to plan for each year. Budget ahead for the expense of a new car and all the other growing pains of life. Student loans require a long-term plan, from beginning to end, in order to safeguard your financial future and avoid long-term debt.

A student loan doesn't have to lead to nasty surprises down the road or a lifetime of debt. Take the time to budget properly, explore your options and plan ahead, and your student loan will be a stress-free stepping stone toward a bright and successful future.


Photo by Simon Cunningham via cc. Image was cropped.

By Andrea Crisp Copyright 2014 brass Media, Inc.

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